Panel: Signs of Life: Human-Robot Intersubjectivities
This paper will present a range of ideas underpinning the development of John Tonkin’s new project, a series of dysfunctional robots that explore different approaches to thinking about cognition and perception. Computational theories of mind have been used both by cognitive scientists as model of how to build an electronic mind, and by cognitive psychologists as a means of understanding the human mind. They see the mind as an information-processing system and thought as a form of computation. These symbolic approaches to thinking about the mind have been challenged by more embodied and embedded approaches to cognition and perception. This has been reflected through the development of a number of bottom-up approaches to AI and robotics, such as neural networks and behaviour based robots that are based on ideas of reactivity and situatedness rather than higher level symbolic modelling. The nervous robots that are being built for this project awkwardly hybridise bottom-up AI approaches with more classical symbolic approaches that use high level symbols drawn from a folk psychology conception of the mind as being the home of internal mental processes such as motives, desires, phobias and neuroses. They use a range of computational approaches, for example Brooks’ subsumption architecture, to create layered hierarchies of stimulus / response reflexes. Examples include a claustrophobot and an agoraphobot, as well as needy/dismissive robots based around attachment theory. One of the aims of this project is to explore the lower boundary of computational complexity that still evokes some sort of self-identification and response in the audience.
- John Tonkin is a Sydney (AU) based media artist who began working with new media in 1985. In 1999-2000 he received a fellowship from the Australia Council’s New Media Arts Board. His work explores interactivity as a site for physical and mental play. Recent projects have used real-time 3d animation, visualisation and data-mapping technologies and custom built and programmed electronics. His works have often involved building frameworks / tools / toys within which the artwork is formed through the accumulated interactions of its users. John currently lectures within the Digital Cultures Program, at the University of Sydney and is undertaking a practice based PhD at COFA, UNSW. His current research is around cybernetics, embodied cognition and situated perception. He is building a number of nervous robots that embody computational models of mind and responsive environments that form a kind of dynamically coupled enactive perceptual apparatus. Recent major exhibitions have included Media City Seoul – 2nd International Media Art Biennale; Seoul Museum of Art 2002, Ozone; Pompidou Center Paris 2003, Digital Sublime – New Masters of Universe; Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei 2004, Strange Weather; Sherman Galleries 2005. Wood Street Galleries, Pittsburgh 2007, National New Media Art Award Exhibition, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Queensland Art Gallery 2008 and Nightshifters Performance Space Sydney (2010). Collaborative projects at Artspace 2005, and ISEA2006 (San Jose).
Full text (PDF) p. 2407-2410